Summary: This is a message I preached for our Church’s 56th Anniversary but you can adapt it to your situation.
INTRODUCTION: Today we celebrate 56 years as a Church. 56 years of preaching the Gospel of the Lord, Jesus Christ. 56 years of standing on the fundamentals of the faith. 56 years of holding to the Baptist distinctives. Nearly 56 years on this same corner and in this same building, although there has been some repair and remodeling. These have been years of “highs” and “lows”. These have been years of blessings and burdens. There have been times during these last 56 years that the doors of this church have almost closed, and a few weeks that the doors of this church were closed. But God’s hand has seemingly been on this church for each and every day of these 56 years. Even during the past 25 or 30 years when membership hasn’t risen above 10 without the Pastor’s family and attendance rarely reached 20 on a consistent basis, this church has continued on.
The question that has been on my mind for several weeks is, Why? Why are those doors still open when there has been no visible growth, and even some decline in attendance and membership for the last several years? Why, when it seems like the bank account has been depleted to just a few dollars, does something happen to raise the balance? Why have you not listened to those who have told you to thank God for the “glory days” and just throw in the towel? Why is this church still here even though the odds are against us? I believe there are a few possible answers to that question and I want to share them with you tonight.
Let me just say at the outset of the message that I may say some things tonight that will “shake you up”. I may say some things that will make you feel uncomfortable—and maybe even mad. But please believe that I have been preparing this message for a couple of months and every word has been bathed in prayer. I have written and rewritten my notes several times—and, even now, the Lord is laying some things on my heart to say. Even as I preach I am praying and I want you to be praying as well. I want you to know that I love you with all my heart and nothing I will say tonight will be out of anger nor is this message directed at anyone in particular. These are just some observations that I have made and I want to be a help to you tonight.
Why are we still here? There could be several reasons:
It could be that this church has been here after 56 years because it has been here for 56 years. If that sounds like an oxymoron to you, hold on. As I have had opportunity over the last year-and-a-half to meet people in the area and find out about the various church affiliations I have found that most folks in town claim a church home, whether or not they are a member and faithful attender. A couple of times after meeting and visiting with someone who claims to “have a church”, I’ll meet their “Pastor” in the post office or around town and comment that I met one of their members, when I mention the name a look of bewilderment comes over the face of the Preacher and he’ll say something like, “Never heard of him.” or “I haven’t seen her in a long time.” What these folks mean when they say, “I’m a member of __________ Church” is, “My family has been a part of that church for generations so when I go to church that’s where I go because that’s my family church”.
We may laugh about that or shake our heads in wonderment over why people would be so steeped in tradition, but more intriguing to me are the folks I’ve met who have said, “Oh, yes. Bible Baptist. That’s my church. I’ve been a member there for years! I was married in that church by Pastor ______. My kids grew up there—even went to the school.”
Could it be that what we scoff at others for—hanging on to tradition—we are guilty of ourselves? Is it possible that this church has continued on for 56 years, a good number of those years with the same membership, because you have been coming to this church so long that it has become habit—tradition?
Turn to Mark, Chapter 7 and let’s see what the Lord Jesus thinks about tradition. [READ MARK 7:1-9]. Traditions are fine as long as they don’t interfere with your worship of your God. Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” Many people allow tradition to blind their minds and hearts to a full and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. After a while traditions become vain and routine and liturgical. The Apostle Paul warns in Colossians 2:8, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”